At first glimpse, cloud diamond inclusions may not be as conspicuous as dark or colored crystal inclusions. But they could sometimes decrease the transparency and hinder the light performance, especially when they span a large area or exist in certain locations in the diamond and when there are multiple clouds appearing simultaneously.
We'll use real images and animations to illustrate what exactly is the cloud inclusion. You'll get a clear understanding of how they correlate to the clarity grade and, consequently the diamond's visual beauty, light performance. Then you can proceed to a wise purchase.
Basics: What is a cloud inclusion?
To give a definition to the cloud inclusion, you should master what is a pinpoint inclusion first. A pinpoint is a very small crystal in a diamond that looks like a microscopic dot. In general, you can only figure it out at 10x magnification or even above. That is, they are too small to capture observers' attention when they exist solely. 👉🏻But if many pinpoints show up tightly close to each other in a group or cluster, you can more easily spot their existence. In this circumstance, these groups or clusters are assigned the name clouds as a whole.☁️
Gemologists call them "clouds" because these inclusions possibly present a hazy appearance or look like wispy white or gray patches, instead of the excellent brilliance, fire and scintillation you desire.
Cloud inclusions and cloudy diamonds: The difference
You may encounter the term "cloudy diamonds" when researching cloud inclusions. Cloud is simply an entity and one type of diamond inclusion, while "cloudy" is an adjective and used to describe the appearance of either an individual inclusion or the whole diamond.⚖️
To clearly differentiate them, below are two points that would help:
- Just because a diamond has a cloud inclusion does not certainly make it "cloudy"; as the inclusion area may be large or small and the distribution of pinpoints could be dense or sparse.
- The cloud inclusion is not the only cause of a cloudy diamond. Other inclusions, including feathers, internal graining and twinning wisps, could lead to a cloudy diamond as well. Over and above that, diamond fluorescence and any grime and oil accumulating on the surface could also result in this phenomenon.
Cloud inclusion vs. Similar inclusions
We've already helped you distinguish between clouds and pinpoints. In this section, let's discuss two typical inclusions that may look somewhat alike to clouds.
Cloud inclusion vs. Twinning wisp
In short, the twinning wisp inclusion can contain clouds. It refers to a series of pinpoints, clouds or crystals that forms in a twisted crystal plane within a diamond resulting from crystal distortions during growth. Twinning wisps generally appear flat and resemble several ribbons radiating outwards. When they are white and spread over an extensive area in a diamond, they are rather noticeable to the unaided eye and usually make the stone cloudy.
By contrast, cloud inclusions have less tendency to get spotted and do not often induce cloudiness.
Cloud inclusion vs. Feather
The feather inclusion is a term for all kinds of cracks and fractures in a diamond. Recapping the point above, the distribution of pinpoints within a cloud can be either dense or sparse. While regarding feathers, their constituting tiny crack threads have a much higher distribution density, giving rise to a hazy look comparatively more easily. In some cases, the feathers have too many tiny crack threads that show up tightly and can give the problematic area a more defined silhouette, prompting a flashing white patch when observed at certain angles.
Compared with cloud inclusions, feathers also pose durability issues for the diamond. If hit fiercely from specific angles, they can result in chippings.
Summing up, cloud inclusions have more room for maneuver than some other inclusions concerning cloudy appearance.
Buying a diamond with cloud inclusions
People are obsessed with the brilliant, fiery and dynamic effects of diamonds. A cloudy diamond could frustrate your fiancée or significant other, bringing both to an embarrassing situation. Before diving into the hints to evaluate these stones, let's start with finding the inclusions in a diamond.
Cloud inclusions in diamond reports and imagery
Cloud inclusions are marked with dotted red circles in the clarity plot of diamond grading reports. The plot below shows that there is a medium cloud located under this diamond's table. Its 360-degree high-resolution imagery indicates that this cloud is a bit dense and resembles a hazy gray patch, impeding the light play of that area.🙁
💡Please be aware that not all inclusions will be plotted in the diagram. The Comments field in the left column of this diamond's GIA report notes: "Additional clouds are not shown." meaning these clouds might not be that evident, or in the cases of other diamonds, they tend to comprise larger areas.
But what does it mean if the Comments notes: "Clarity grade is based on clouds that are not shown."? Take this diamond as an example; that note means that these clouds are more likely to spread larger areas within the diamond and are the primary grade-setting inclusion, diminishing light performance. This is why this diamond looks dull and hazy though it owns Excellent cut grade.
Clouds and clarity grade
With the aid of plotting diagrams and high-resolution imagery, we can take in some degree of ability to understand how clouds impact a diamond's beauty. But in many cases, the confirmation of their existence and impact is not that straightforward, especially when there are other "cloudy" inclusions and other types of inclusions.
As per the experience of diamond graders, we can correlate the impacts of clouds to particular clarity grades. For diamonds that fall at a clarity grade within the VVS and VS categories, cloud inclusions are less likely to have an appreciable impact on light performance since they are generally not the grade-setting characteristic. But clouds in the diamonds with a grade in the SI or below category could be large and dense enough to interfere with ideal light reflection and refraction, possibly decreasing diamond transparency and turning the stone hazy/cloudy.
The beauty of a diamond is not constrained by one single factor, right? Let's go back to the broader 4Cs system. Each C interacts with the other with both physics and chemistry to contribute to a diamond's ultimate beauty. Cut quality is immensely important to a diamond's appearance and light performance. A well-cut diamond lifts up its brilliance, fire and scintillation while offsetting the hazing impact of clouds to some extent. Such a diamond can be more appealing than one that is not well cut though without clouds or flawless.
But if an upgrade on the cut grade is not feasible, revert to the discussion on clouds. Try to pass over diamonds with clouds located in the area where light rays are concentrated—in the center of the diamond, down towards the culet. Then they have a lower tendency to bring about an evident haziness for the diamond.
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